Alcohol and COVID-19: what you need to know

If you are eligible for antiviral medicines and you test positive for COVID-19, your doctor will still need to give you a prescription. Knowing which antiviral medicine is right for you will help you access it more quickly and easily. The Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) has approved 2 oral antiviral medicines for COVID-19 in Australia. COVID-19 antiviral medicines do not work against other viruses like influenza (flu). He said substance use disorder affects how the brain receives emotional reward and suspends the ability to see psychological, social and medical problems caused or exacerbated by a substance.

Chronic liver disease or cirrhosis is Arizona’s ninth leading cause of death, according to the Arizona Department of Health Services, but the post-2020 trajectory of the disease is stark. She believes her sister’s drinking had increased during the 2020 COVID-19 restrictions and worsened her liver problem. This increased blood flow could also explain the intense body pain some people with long COVID or ME/CFS experience, according to Sarah Annesley, a microbiology senior research fellow at La Trobe University in Australia who studies both conditions.

  1. Sepsis, respiratory failure and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) have occurred in most fatal cases [1].
  2. Rachakonda said it’s not unreasonable to request a blood test if you’re experiencing alcohol intolerance.
  3. NIAAA supports a wide range of research on alcohol use and its effects on health and wellbeing.
  4. Among patients with alcohol related liver disease, outcomes appear worse and caution is warranted with the use of medications.

Arizona residents drank more than normal in 2020 as COVID-19 lockdowns forced people to stay indoors and working from home became a new normal. But only a few years later, the effect of that drinking is manifesting in high hospitalization rates for liver diseases, especially alcoholic cirrhosis, an Arizona Republic analysis of the state’s hospitalization records shows. Regardless of the amount of alcohol a person consumes though, since alcohol consumption can weaken our immune systems over time, any person with problematic drinking behaviors can be amongst the most vulnerable populations for getting COVID-19. While flattening the curve is the nation’s priority right now, we understand that the unique needs of an individual battling alcoholism are equally as urgent—maybe even more so during this time of social distancing and home quarantines. Although some nations banned alcohol sales completely others declared it as an essential product, resulting in varied problems across countries, including unintended messaging that alcohol is ‘essential’ [120]. There is a need for a rethinking about policy changes like online alcohol delivery, which can be difficult to roll back [121].

How does drinking alcohol affect the body when you have long COVID?

Immediate effects have been an increase in alcohol-related emergencies including alcohol withdrawal, withdrawal-related suicides, methanol toxicity and alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents. In the UK, alcohol purchase increased by 40% during lockdown across all strata [103]. The US reported increased alcohol sale during the initial part of the lockdown [104].

COVID‐19, a current pandemic, has contributed to many fatalities world‐wide. Sepsis, respiratory failure and acute respiratory distress syndrome (ARDS) have occurred in most fatal cases [1]. In Iran, misinformation related to alcohol being a ‘neutralizing agent’ and consumption of illicit alcohol led to a ‘syndemic of COVID-19 and methanol poisoning’. In the early part of pandemic, there were 5000 cases of methanol poisoning and 500 deaths [100]. Reports of consuming alcohol based sanitiser and leading to methanol toxicity were reported [101]. In US, online tweets related to alcohol blackouts significantly increased during the lockdown [99].

Now, her tolerance has decreased so dramatically that she has not had any alcohol for seven months. On one occasion, one glass of wine caused such a bad reaction that she felt she could not move. She described her symptoms as similar to a “bad hangover,” with a headache, grogginess, and “overwhelming” fatigue the next day.

As there are some countries in the second wave at the time of this review, we need newer protocols and cohorts to study the long-term effects on mental health and addiction of different populations [123]. COVID-19 and the related lockdown has affected the mental health of people, particularly vulnerable populations [56]. Attributed reasons include 1) financial troubles due to job losses 2) uncertainty about the control of pandemic by the health system and 3) fear of life post supporting those in recovery during the holidays pandemic [57]. The last but not the least is the reverse analysis – how alcohol use disorder may influence the way of dealing with the pandemic from the personal safety perspective. With other disasters, we’ve seen that these spikes in drinking last 5 or 6 years and then alcohol consumption slowly returns to usual levels. We hope that the high rates of alcohol use and negative health effects will decline over time as we return to more typical interactions with each other.

Key findings with respect to changes in alcohol use patterns

This raises concerns related to drinking and driving in the absence of dine-in alcohol locations. Studies from emergency departments in Ireland and United States (US) reported overall reductions in psychiatric and alcohol-related emergencies due to lockdown orders [16,17]. In a hospital-based study from the US, whereas there was significant reduction in motor vehicle accidents during the pandemic, alcohol-related motor vehicle accidents relatively increased [18,19]. Lockdown and sudden alcohol ban in many countries saw a sudden surge in complicated alcohol withdrawal [5▪▪,9].

Liver Disease and Alcohol: Is Binge Drinking To Blame?

It’s possible that people who cannot tolerate alcohol after COVID may have sustained an acute liver injury from their infection or have an undiagnosed liver condition. Alcohol intolerance can happen even to those who aren’t experiencing long COVID, the no-drug approach to erectile dysfunction may disappear or become less severe with time, and can be triggered by specific types of alcohol but not others. Although inconvenient, not being able to drink alcohol isn’t the most earth-shattering of symptoms compared with more serious effects.

After she was diagnosed with alcoholic cirrhosis, she was in and out of the hospital in the last months of her life. Heather’s autopsy report simply states that she died from complications of chronic ethyl (ETOH) use, a medical term for alcohol use. Across almost all common diseases, hospitalization rates dipped in 2020 due to COVID-19 restrictions. By 2022, hospitalization rates for these diseases — such as stroke, heart disease, diabetes, hypertension and cancer — were either back to pre-COVID, 2019 levels or slightly below them. It’s safe to say an intolerance to alcohol isn’t the worst of COVID or long COVID symptoms, but it can take away the “happy” in happy hour and generally impact your social life (if it revolves around alcohol at all).

To combat your feelings of anxiety, it may be helpful to stay off social media sites or limit the amount of time you spend watching the news each day. Being proactive about your mental health can help reduce triggers that may keep you in a constant state of worry. While the threat of COVID-19 is real, your mental health should be a main priority as well.

What are some healthier options for coping with stressful events and avoiding risky drinking behaviors?

During this time, it’s important to acknowledge and understand these challenges that you may face in order to avoid using alcohol to self-medicate, potentially increasing certain COVID-19 related risks. Alcohol intolerance is a condition where the body reacts negatively to the consumption of alcohol. It’s typically related to an inability to properly process or metabolize alcohol.

There are documented instances of attempts by the alcohol industry to influence public policy by framing alcohol as an essential product and arguing that restrictions are complex and ineffective [105]. In Australia, industry resorted to social media advertising through new means like memes. It was observed that there were advertisements every 35 s, focusing on easy access, encouragement to buy more alcohol, to drink during COVID-19, drinking to cope and normalising alcohol [106▪]. In England, the rates of smoking cessation and use of remote cessation support during lockdown were higher. Compared to prepandemic period, the use of evidence-based support to reduce the use of alcohol decreased among high-risk drinkers [55]. In India, in the early period of lockdown, less than 20% of registered patients with alcohol dependence were able to seek treatment.

That can mean that someone who normally has one or two drinks a day may start drinking three more regularly. Among vulnerable groups like health professionals, elderly, patients diagnosed with cancer, alcohol has added to the burden of the problem. A qualitative study from India analysing 350 online newspaper articles during 1 month of lockdown reflected the lack of a comprehensive alcohol policy in India [102].